There are times that a little local knowledge helps you in a bass tournament, and then there are times it does not. And sometimes, it pays to ignore past experiences altogether, as Mark McCaig figured out en route to winning the Oct. 22-24, 2015 Walmart Bass Fishing League Regional presented by Ranger Boats on Lake Neely Henry out of Gadsden, Ala. By disregarding what his local experience might have suggested he do and approaching the tournament a little differently, the Oxford, Ala., boater posted a three-day total weight of 45 pounds, 7 ounces to take home the $20,000 winner’s purse as well as a 2015 Ranger Z518C with 200-hp outboard.
McCaig was able to catch an 18-pound, 15-ounce limit on day two to take the lead, then closed out the win with a 13-pound limit on the final day. He finished ahead of Daniel Langton of Haubstadt, Ind., who finished second with 40-9, and day-one leader Drew Boggs of Lebanon, Tenn., who finished third with a total of 39-5.
McCaig says that he fished “stuff” he had never even thought of fishing before.
“I really junk-fished my way through the tournament,” he says. “I really didn’t have a great practice, but started finding that I was getting better quality bites when I fished cover that had deep water nearby.”
He reports fishing any visible cover in shallow spots that had deeper water within 20 to 30 yards of the target.
“I really was fishing by seeing cover and then checking my Navionics chips to make sure that there was deep water nearby,” he adds. “Once I found the two components together, I was able to trigger strikes.”
He did so in part by using a white ChatterBait and shad-colored Lucky Craft and Zoom WEC square-bill crankbaits, but mostly by making long presentations with a 3/8-ounce All-Terrain Tackle Skip-N’-Jig, which he rigged with a green pumpkin/orange skirt and twin-tailed grub trailer.
McCaig kept his boat out deep and then worked his way into the shallower targets. He says that he used the crankbaits and ChatterBait to try and pick fish off of the ends of the cover before aggressively targeting the shallows.
“After fishing the outer edges of the cover, I would move in a little and make long casts and pitches to every visible target I could. Staying off of the cover was key to getting bites,” he adds. “My 13 Fishing rods and reels were key components to making those presentations. They helped me get the lure where I needed to without spooking the fish.”
McCaig says he started fishing the BFL to accomplish the goal of qualifying for the All-American.
“It has been a goal of mine for quite a while,” he says. “To do so, and to win this event, is really special. I’m truly humbled right now.”
Langton Combines ChatterBait and Jig Patterns for Second
Daniel Langton says he felt like he was in position to win early in the morning on day three, but after catching a pair of solid fish, the quality of his bites dwindled.
“I know anything can happen, but his [McCaig’s] 18-pound bag [on day two] was going to be really hard to overcome,” Langton says. “But, early in the day I caught a 3-pound spotted bass and a 4-pound largemouth, and I thought I had a chance. Then the quality fish stopped biting after that.”
Langton reports using an original white Z-Man ChatterBait with a Zoom Split Tail trailer in the morning within five miles of the Coosa Landing takeoff site. After catching his limit, he would run 20 miles upstream to flip a 1/2-ounce Lunker Lure Ultimate Jig in green craw natural with a matching Zoom Chunk trailer.
He threw the ChatterBait on a 7-foot, medium-action Abu Garcia rod and 6.4:1 retrieve ratio Pflueger reel spooled with 17-pound-test Berkley Trilene XT monofilament. He flipped his jig on a 766 heavy-action Dobyns Rod with a high-speed Pflueger reel and 20-pound-test Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon line.
Boggs Punches for Third-Place Finish
Third-place finisher Drew Boggs actually led the tournament on day one. His 17-pound, 8-ounce opening limit set the pace for what wound up being a strong tournament. Despite not holding onto the lead, Boggs was happy with the way that the event turned out.
“I’m not disappointed at all. I did all I could do and just didn’t get the bites I needed to finish it off,” he says. “The difference was that I got two big bites on the first day, and didn’t the next two. I don’t know if it was the weather change, or the pressure of so many boats, but things changed.”
Boggs reports targeting shallow grass beds downstream from Gadsden, through Minnesota Bend to the Southside Bridge in Rainbow City.
“I punched green pumpkin creature baits on the first and second days of the tournament, but had to adjust on day three,” he adds. “As the shoreline grass bite started to die, I picked up a green pumpkin football jig and threw it on rock banks.
“I didn’t expect to be in position to win at all,” Boggs continues. “To lead it on the first day and to be able to qualify for the All-American has just got me feeling tickled to death.”
Kilgore Claims Co-angler Title
Wayne Kilgore of nearby Atalla, Ala., put together three consistent days of fishing to win the co-angler title. Kilgore fished a style contrary to his pros to enable himself the chance to catch fish they might not be fishing for.
“I try to do something that will help me get bites behind these guys because they’re too good to compete with in the same approach,” he says. “I fished a shaky head and 6-inch green pumpkin worm, a white ChatterBait and a Senko-type bait.”
While he declined to mention any other specifics as to his pattern, he thanked the boaters who helped put him in position to win.
“All three of my boaters were great. Pete Fargo, Alfred Williams and Mark [McCaig] were great partners, and very good anglers themselves,” he says. “This is a true blessing to have won. To be heading to the All-American as the winner of this Regional is truly a wonderful feeling.”
Click here for complete results.
The Lake Neely Henry Regional featured the top anglers from the Choo Choo, Bulldog, LBL and Mississippi divisions. The top six boaters and co-anglers qualified to compete in the 2016 Walmart Bass Fishing League All-American, which is a televised event with a six-figure payday and a boater berth in the Forrest Wood Cup on the line.
Here are the qualifiers.
Mark McCaig, Oxford, Ala.
Daniel Langton, Haubstadt, Ind.
Drew Boggs, Lebanon, Tenn.
Landon Lomax, Owens Cross Roads, Ala.
Ronny Web, Dyersburg, Tenn.
Kyle Dorsett, Odenville, Ala.
Wayne Kilgore, Attalla, Ala.
Steve Hall, Mableton, Ga.
Mike Allen, Crystal Springs, Miss.
Ray Arning Jr., Walnut Hill, Ill.
Charles Knowles, Canton, Miss.
Charles Hardin, Evansville, Ind.